Did the King’s Speech miss a key opportunity on AI regulation? 

King Charles
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There were a plethora of newsworthy talking points following yesterday’s King’s Speech, however a lack of focus on any AI-specific legislations drew criticism from some quarters. 

After the UK played host to world leaders on AI, many anticipated the speech would provide an opportunity for the UK to continue to pitch itself as a leading territory when it comes to the growth of AI. 

Yet, the absence of any AI bill, in what was likely the last chance for a specific legislative draft on the technology to be put forward before the looming general election next year was a significant missed opportunity. 

A regulatory framework could have provided an opportunity for the government to increase consumer confidence over the fear of AI and specifically the role of big tech in its growth. 

Science, Innovation and Technology Committee Chair, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, described the lack of any AI regulation or even its reference as ‘disappointing’, as he underlined the opportunity that was missed. 

Clark stated: “In March the government said that it would consider legislating to establish ‘due regard’ duties for existing regulators, as part of the implementation of the high-level principles set out in the AI white paper. 

“In our interim report, we called for the introduction of such a short tightly-focussed Bill to make sure existing regulators’ powers are up to date to be applied to AI. We warned of the risk that without regulators’ powers being up to date the UK could be overtaken by other jurisdictions – particularly the European Union and United States.” 

He added: “Since our interim report was published both the EU and US have moved closer to setting de facto AI governance standards, and whilst the UK demonstrated its convening power at Bletchley Park, the international regulatory picture is likely to look very different by 2025 – simply put, it may by then be too late for the UK’s approach to become the international standard.

“My Committee will continue to consider these issues in depth, including at our next hearing on Wednesday 8 November with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, where we will hear from the Prime Minister’s summit representative, Matt Clifford.”   

Nonetheless, there were two bills that could have a key impact on opening avenues for new technology, which will have drawn eyes from the world of fintech, blockchain and payments. 

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill is one that could be seen as imperative to the evolution of Open Finance and data sharing. It closely followed the Khalifa Review, which sought to fuel the safe growth of fintech in the UK, and has seen the government criticised over its lack of urgency.

Charlotte Crosswell, Chair of the Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT), described the Bill as ‘the government committing to opening the door to game-changing new technologies’.

She added: “The end objective is to achieve ‘Open Data’, where all types of personal data – financial, biographical, demographic, employment, etc – can be securely shared within a trustworthy ecosystem.  

“The potential benefits of enhanced data-sharing in the realm of finance specifically will be transformational. This is a subset of Open Data that we call ‘Open Finance’. We believe that Open Finance has the potential to be at the cutting-edge of the UK’s march to Open Data for three reasons.

“Firstly, because financial data makes up so much of the data landscape; secondly, because the Government is using the success of Open Banking as the first step towards unlocking a wider Smart Data economy: and thirdly, because we are seeing real progress being made within Open Finance through our industry-wide coalition on how to apply Open-Banking-style data-sharing to financial services more broadly.

“Much like Open Banking showed the way, this bill will enable the Open Finance revolution which is the next step towards opening up all other datasets, so that the UK can become a globally competitive, Smart Data economy.”

Payment Expert Analysis: The King’s Speech very much shapes government priorities for the year ahead, and whilst the continued focus on the growth of tech is a step in the right direction, lack of anything specifically related to AI could be a real hindrance to its mass adoption. 

Furthermore,the UK has an opportunity to set the standard on a safe regulatory framework that enables the evolution of AI. However, it seems that chance may pass Rishi Sunak by, as he heads into a 2025 General Election.